Background It is unclear how adverse childhood family environments differentially impact adult health outcomes among men and women. This brief communication reports on the independent and joint effects of adverse childhood family environments and sex on indicators of health in adulthood.
Methods & Results 213 18-55-year olds reported on their childhood family environment (Risky Families Questionnaire (RFQ); Family Environment Scale (FEStotal)) and their current perceived stress and depressive and anxious affect. Resting systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and heart rate (HR) were taken during a laboratory visit, and total cortisol output was measured in saliva samples collected at home. Exposure to childhood adversity did not vary by sex. Women had lower SBP, DBP, and total cortisol output, but higher HR, than men (ps < .05). Sex moderated the association between childhood family environment and SBP (RFQ: B = -.316; SE = .120; p = .009; FEStotal: B = -.274; SE = .117; p = .021) and DBP (FEStotal: B = -.193; SE = .094; p = .041), such that exposure to greater childhood adversity was linked to lower BP in women only. Results were largely unchanged after adjusting for concurrent perceived stress and depressive and anxious affect. Separate effects of individual FES subscales are also discussed.
Conclusions Contrary to expectations, exposure to adverse childhood family environments was associated with lower resting BP among women, perhaps indicative of basal cardiovascular hypoactivation, whereas early adversity was not linked to BP among men.
Schreier, H., *Jones, E., *Nayman, S., & Smyth, J. (2019). Associations between adverse childhood family environments and blood pressure differ between men and women. PLoS ONE, 14 (12), e0225544. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225544.